Keith is running the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half Marathon to raise funds for cancer research at Cardiff University in memory of his sister Rhona.
I’m running to raise funds for cancer research, specifically the malignant melanoma that stole my youngest sister, and changed my life irrevocably. Rhona died in late 2011, about 18 months after she was first diagnosed. She was just 33 years old. Her life-long partner, Danny, had died in an accident a few months earlier. This meant that her two children, Rhyss and Brooke, aged 13 and three at the time, were orphaned. It was a devastating time, and we still feel her loss. Anyone who has experienced this kind of grief will understand that life doesn’t return to ‘normal’ after a certain period of time. It’s a change that persists long after.
I’d often thought about doing something in Rhona’s memory, but was never quite sure what to do. I’d always played sport, preferably football, but then in a competitive match on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013, I partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my right knee. I got back to playing again, but then fully ruptured the ACL – in the same knee – in 2015, again on St. Patrick’s Day (Patrick’s having a laugh at my expense, right?). I had an operation later that year to repair the menisci and some other bits of the knee, but decided to forego a full reconstruction of my ACL and just live with it. After several months of (mostly) walking rehab, in March 2016 I got excited and joined in with a local parkrun. Even though I was worried about my knee, I loved it! I also found that I’m not bad at running!
I decided I’d run the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half-Marathon. Running as part of #TeamCardiff, I could choose to fundraise for cancer research; it was a perfect fit. This feels important to me; I really appreciate having the opportunity to remember my sister and to also raise money that will help some very smart people learn more about this terrible disease. In some small way I feel I’m making a difference. That might sound cheesy, but it’s true for me.
I’m really looking forward to Race Day. I’ve never run a race before, and while this means there are unknowns, I’ve had lots of people telling me it’s a fabulous, memorable event, which is very encouraging. I’m also looking forward to, hopefully, getting my first running medal – it’s only a small thing but I think running medals almost always look amazing! More than anything though, I’m excited about seeing so many people, runners of all different shapes and sizes, speeds, backgrounds, hopes and goals, come together as one. I’m passionate about the importance of being active and the half marathon is definitely about this.
There is still some sadness that pops up now and again, usually when I’m thinking about my sister. I guess I miss her, and doing this brings that home. As part of the fundraising process, many people who knew Rhona have expressed very thoughtful, personal and encouraging messages which have added to this emotion. I cried whilst writing my JustGiving story and there have been other moments of upset. Of course, this is all absolutely normal, and given that one of my main motivations for doing this is the memory of my sister, these emotions are very understandable.
I’d like to mention that running in Cardiff is also important to me. Rhona visited South Wales and Cardiff shortly before she passed away; the trip was a dying wish of hers, and she’d never been before. One of my fondest memories of her stay was a boat ride we took together in Cardiff Bay. Half-way around, she looked at me with the most radiant smile and told me ‘It’s deadly, isn’t it’. (‘Deadly’ is Irish slang for ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant’.) That moment lit me up and broke my heart all at once. A couple of weeks later she was gone. I hope that as I’m coasting around the Bay (this is positive self-talk!) on Race Day, I’ll be mindful of the memories I have, and keep my sister close.
One of my supporters said that Rhona would be ‘. . .putting wings on your runners or ants in your pants to get you to the finish line.’, which really made me smile. I might try to visualise both on the day – I’ll report back to let you know whether this makes any difference to my finish time. . . (runners means trainers back in Ireland).
If you haven’t already done so, make your fundraising effort personal. Tell your story or someone else’s. Share something people wouldn’t necessarily know. You want to create a relationship with someone who might then be moved to support you. Be real; imagine talking to someone sitting in front of you and what you might say to them about why you’re running and why they should support you. Lastly, try to notice Race Day – if you haven’t already, have a read about mindfulness and see if you can apply it to your running. I find myself much more a part of the running process when I’m mindful, when I can notice what’s happening in my body, what thoughts are whizzing about in my head, and what’s happening around me. It’s grounding.
Good luck if you’re going to be part of the race. Please feel free to stop and say hello if you recognise me – I’d love to wish you the best or throw you a high-five if you’ve completed the run.
Want to push yourself in 2018? Sign up to #TeamCardiff and make a real difference by running the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half Marathon – register your interest here.